Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Autumn Crocus; Japanese Irises; Impatiens & Downy Mildew; 2013 Garden Highlights; Preparing for Winter

Autumn Crocus

Autumn Crocuses

 Autumn Crocus or Colchicum

This is what the Autumn Crocuses look like in the spring.
The flower doesn't appear until early fall.
These fall beauties pop up in a matter of days in early fall. No foliage- just the flowers on stems. The foliage appears in the spring and then dies back in early summer (see photo at right). The Autumn Crocus is not a true crocus, but species or hybrids of Colchicum, a group of fall flowering bulbs in the lily family. They do best planted in full sun. You can plant them in low growing ground covers or perennial beds. If you want to move or divide them do it in summer after the leaves have died back, but before the flowers come up. 

Japanese Iris (Iris Ensata)

Japanese Iris 2013
These irises bloomed earlier in the season but they were so beautiful that I wanted to share some pictures of them with you. The Japanese Irises flower a little later in the season than bearded irises. They also have the characteristic of a flat top. To me, they are similar to a Siberian iris except that the flowers are larger. Japanese irises do well in wet soil in the spring, and moist soil and full sun in the summer. As long as the crown of the plant is not submerged under water the plant will be fine. They do not like to dry out and they do well near pond areas. They are hardy in zones 4-9.

Newly transplants require a lot of water. If you have very dry soil you might have to water them every day especially to get them started. They might take 2-3 years before they start blooming. Do not use bone meal or lime on your Japanese Irises. They can kill your plants. And do not fertilize newly planted or transplanted Japanese irises either.
Japanese Iris 2013

It is important to dig up and divide your plants about every 3-4 years to keep them vigorous and also because the new roots form above the old roots forcing the crown of the plant out of the ground.  When dividing, cut back 1/3 of the foilage, dig up the crown, divide into fans and cut off the old roots. To prepare them for winter, after a frost cut down the foilage to the ground.

Impatiens And Downy Mildew

Impatiens 2009
I haven't planted any standard impatiens in the last few growing seasons. Last year was the first year I saw reports that the east coast was having a severe problem with downy mildew that was affecting our standard impatiens (wallerina). All of the standard impatiens including the doubles are susceptible to this very harmful spore. Other plants can be affected by a form of downy mildew but not this strain. If your impatiens had the following symptoms it could very well have been from downy mildew: yellowing of leaves, downward curled leaves, and the underside of the leaves had white spots on them. Young plants appear to be stunted and older plants would drop their leaves and flowers.

The disease can spread from flowers to other areas of your yard by the wind carrying the spores, and the spores can also survive in the ground over winter. If you had infected impatiens this year, you should not plant them next year because the spores could still be in your soil. At this point in time they are not sure how long the spores can survive (1-5 years?). Downy mildew survives in humid or moist conditions, as well as crowded plants. If you have them in your garden now, and they have the downy mildew, when you remove them do not add them to your compost pile. Discard them in the trash. One of my neighbors had downy mildew on her impatiens last year, and replaced them with new plants from a nursery and the same thing happened to the new impatiens. After discarding the  plants and soil and replacing it with new soil she planted them again this year and they were fine.

The New Guinea impatiens are not affected by this downy mildew. I think that might be one of the reasons there were so many New Guinea impatiens planted on the grounds of Boldt Castle that I shared with you in the previous issue of my Garden Blog.

Here is a link with pictures of Impatiens with Downy Mildew: Impatiens and Downy Mildew

2013 Garden Highlights 

Oriental Lily - "Tiger Woods"


Sundrops are one of my favorite perennials. They are not invasive, but they do spread out, and are easy to remove if your clumps are getting too crowded. I like adding these around the different areas of our yard because they bring a "pop" of color to selected areas in early summer.

Lady's Mantle  (Alchemilla Mollis)

I love how the rain beads up on the Lady's Mantle. They can get a little washed out and pale looking around the middle of the season and if that occurs you can cut them back and they will come back the same season. Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla) has chartreuse flowers and does well in partial shade.

Spirea japonica  'Shirobana'


Ligularia "The Rocket"
I like the serrated leaves on the Ligularia. They are really different and it flowers a little later in the season too. It's nice to break up your plantings with a variety of shapes as well as textures in your gardens. You can achieve this with various shades and shapes of leaves as well as flowers.

Japanese Stewartia Tree

The first year our Japanese Stewartia tree bloomed.
Attractive bark on Japanese Stewartia Tree

Crab Apple (wild) I've never seen these crab apples this beautiful before in our area

Preparing for Winter - What You Need To Do

Favorite Tools
I have three favorite tools: My number one tool is a pair of scissors from the dollar store. I don't know how many pairs of scissors I have discarded by mistake when dumping my plant trimmings. You don't need pruners to do all your yard work. I only use them for the really heavy duty stuff like trimming woody stems. I like the scissors for deadheading. It goes pretty quick with them. And with the scissors I also cut back most of the perennials that need trimming in the fall before winter, except the tall sedums, mums and a few other perennials that don't have to be trimmed back until spring. When you are trimming back your perennials it's easy to grab a handful of spike leaves and snip them off with scissors.There are differing thoughts on what should be trimmed back before winter in your garden. Some like to leave stalks of flower heads for the birds, and some think they also protect the plant over winter. I cut most stuff back in the fall because it's less clean-up in the spring when there is a lot more stuff to do at that time of year. And also, with the gardens cleaned up there are less harmful bugs hiding out for the winter in my plants. My second and third favorite tools are the trowel and a D-handle round pointed shovel (30"). You need a trowel for weeding and planting small plants. The D-handled shovel is lighter and shorter than a regular shovel and is great for planting and dividing perennials, Sometimes I even use that shovel for weeding out the big stuff. It's easy to carry the D-handle shovel around too. I also use a 5 gallon pail that I carry around with me with a carpenters apron tied around it to hold my scissors and trowel. I put my tools in the apron, and I can deadhead, pull out some weeds, toss them in the bucket, and that makes an easy way to dispose of them.  I also use a garden kneeler. This reduces strain on your lower back from stooping and bending; and sore knees from kneeling on the ground. And the arms makes it easier for getting up off the ground. And the one that I have you can turn it over and you have a seat, and it folds for storage.
D-handled pointed shovel (30") and kneeler

Fall Chores in the Garden
Continue to weed your gardens. Fall is a good time to weed because with all the rain the ground is not as hard and the weeds usually pull out easier. And you will keep weed seeds from sprouting next spring. If you are having a dry fall you will need to continue watering your newly planted perennials, shrubs, and trees so their roots can get established before winter. When you water you need to water deep, not just a spray or sprinkling. With a deep watering your plants are sending the roots down deep. With a light watering the roots will stay near the surface where the water is and will not send their roots down deep. 
You will need to rake up leaves if you have a lot in your yard. You will want to get them off your lawn because if they are thick and stay on over winter they can suffocate your lawn. Use the raked leaves as mulch in the garden or add to your compost pile. And the same with pine needles. You can rake them up and put them around your azaleas, rhododendron, and your strawberry plants. You will also need to pull out your dead annuals. Sometimes I even pull them out before a frost if they are not blooming very well. If you mulch your perennials be sure not to cover the crown or center of the plant because if water builds up in there it can cause rot. If you have any house plants outside, now would be a good time to re-pot them if they need it. Check them over for any bugs as well. And of course- get your snow shovel ready!

Japanese Anemone

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Thousand Islands Region, St. Lawrence River; Boldt Castle

The Thousand Islands Region 
Tibbets Point Lighthouse, Cape Vincent NY  
Photo by Ted Link

View of St. Lawrence River from Alexandria Bay, NY
We had the opportunity to visit the Thousand Islands Region again this past summer. I always love it up there. The Thousand Islands/St. Lawrence River starts off the eastern end of Lake Ontario with a small village- Cape Vincent, NY. Cape Vincent has a beautiful little Lighthouse called Tibbets Point Lighthouse. Also, there is a small ferry that you can take that crosses the river from Cape Vincent to Wolfe Island, and from there you take a larger ferry to Kingston, Ontario. If you are interested in taking the ferry to Ontario, Canada you will need to bring your passports. Heading further east, the next little river community you will find is Clayton, NY. Clayton has an antique boat museum that has over 300 boats and nautical artifacts. In 2014 the Antique Boat Museum will celebrate it's 50th year. The next village that you come to on the St. Lawrence River is Alexandria Bay. "A Bay" is always busy with tourists, scenic boats and cruises, lake freighters, and awesome views of  "The River" as the locals call it. There are two Castles that are open to the public for viewing,  Boldt Castle and Singer Castle. We toured Boldt Castle and got some great pictures of the Castle and gardens. Singer Castle is a privately owned castle and is open to the public. It's completely finished and was owned by the original family until the 1960's. If you are coming from Canada you will need to bring your passport to stop at the Castles because they are on American islands.

This is a great introductory video of the Thousands Islands. 
I love this video! The Thousand Islands RiverQuest by Helicoptor. 
For the full effects of the movie view it in Full Screen (then click escape to bring you back to this page).

Landing and docks on Heart Island
Boldt Castle. In the early 1900's, after vacationing in the Thousand Islands, George C. Boldt, owner of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, decided to build a castle for his wife on one of the islands. He had the name of the island changed from the original name of Hart Island to Heart Island. And he had the shape of the island changed as well in the shape of a heart. The castle was nearly completed when his wife took ill and died. At that point in time, Mr. Boldt ordered the workers on the castle to stop working. He never returned to the island or castle. The castle was left exposed to the weather and vandalism for over 70 years. The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property in 1977 and has returned the net revenues back into the restoration of the buildings and grounds. The restoration is an ongoing project. Most of the first and second floors of the castle have been restored, but the upper levels are not finished at this time. The damage on the upper floors is from past weather exposure and previous vandalism.

The Entry Arch

Here is a link for additional beautiful photos and information on Boldt Castle. You can also see some pictures that were taken before the renovation began:
Boldt Castle Visitor Information
Note: Ticket prices listed on the above link does not include the cost of the tour/cruise boats. 
If you wish to visit the Castle without taking one of the scenic cruises you can travel to Wellesley Island and follow directions to the Boldt Castle Yacht House. You can purchase a package to the Yacht House and Boldt Castle and a round trip shuttle service is included in the price. There is additional docking for private boats as well at the Castle.

New Guinea Impatiens appeared to be the most used flower on the island this year. But that changes from year-to- year.

I like how they landscaped around the rock formations.

The Dove-Cote was built to house their fowl and exotic birds.

I think this might be one of their trial gardens where they test plantings to see how they look together.

Beautiful red & white New Guinea Impatiens

The Castle is reached by boat only. It was a little overcast on our ride over to Heart Island.

In the background on the left is the Castle Yacht House. From there you can take the free shuttle boat to the Island. This Yacht museum is also open to the public and it is on Wellesley Island. You can tour the Yacht museum for a small additional fee. In the middle of the picture is one of the many scenic boat/cruise lines that stop at the island for viewing.

Sunken Rock Lighthouse  Photo by  Ted Link

Interior view of the dome

Other Related Links:

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic
Alexandria Bay Chamber of Commerce:
A Thousand Islands of Summer National Geographic Traveler (May 2010):
A Bit of Paradise on Island No. 999- The New York Times Escapes (August 24, 2007):
Cape Vincent, NY:
Horne's Ferry, Cape Vincent (to Wolfe Island, Ontario, Canada):
Wolfe Island Ferry (from Wolfe Island to Kinston, Ontario, Canada): Wolfe Island Ferry
Antique Boat Museum, Clayton, NY:
Singer Castle, Alexandria Bay, NY: (this link includes a short 2 min. video of Singer Castle)
Reader's Digest: For the Romantic: Boldt Castle in New York:
Great Lakes Seaway Trail- National Scenic Byway:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where Did My Foxgloves Go? Over-wintering Tender Perennials; USDA Hardiness Zone Map; Swallow-worts

Foxgloves 2012

Where did my Foxgloves go? Biennials

Have you ever planted foxgloves (digitalis) only to have them die out the following year? When you go to a nursery to buy perennials you could possibly be buying biennials and not know it unless they are marked as such on the label. Some of the more popular biennials are: Foxglove, Sweet William, and Hollyhocks. A biennial is a plant that usually only lives two years versus a perennial that will live multiple years (most of the time). The first year a biennial will come up from seed, and form leaves and develop its roots. The second year the plant comes up, grows its leaves, flowers, produces seeds and usually dies after that season. Sometimes they might live another year or so. There also is a perennial form of foxglove, Digitilas grandiflora (yellow). 

The important thing to know about biennials is that if you want them to come back every year, you can't cut them back or pull them out after they are done blooming. You need to let the flowers and seeds DRY on the stalk and remain on the stalk until they are thoroughly dry. 

Dried seed pods on Foxglove.
This may appear quite unsightly (see photo of dried seed pods), but it's usually the only way you will always have a continuous supply of those specific flowers. Unless of course you want to purchase the seeds or plants every year. I have been growing our foxgloves and Sweet Williams for about twenty years using this method without purchasing any plants or seeds. When your new seedlings come up the following year you can transplant them to other areas of your garden or share with friends. After the seed pods are dry, I like to cut off the top stem of the foxgloves and sprinkle the seeds around other areas of my yard where I would like the new plants to come up. Also, you do not have to cover the seeds up with soil or compost. Hollyhocks will produce seeds this way as well, but if the original seed or plant was a double-flowering  hollyhock the seedlings most likely will not be a double flowering hollyhock but a single.

Another important fact about foxgloves is that they are poisonous. Foxgloves are the source for the heart drug (digitalis) which is poisonous in the event of an overdose. The plants are not poisonous to touch, only if it is ingested.  Some people might be more sensitive to this plant than others, but most people that I know that have this flower in their gardens have never had a problem with it.

More information on foxgloves:

Sweet William 2013
You can use this same method of self-sowing seeds for other perennials that you would like to re-seed such as columbine, rose campion, yarrow, Black-eyed Susan, and purple coneflower.  Perennials you should not let go to seed would be any hybridized plant. A hybridized plant is a plant that has parent plants that have been crossed pollinated with a different variety of the same plant. An example might be for different colors, stronger stems, taller plants, disease resistance, etc. If you let them go to seed it is possible that they will produce seeds quite different from the parent plant. An example of these hybrid plants would be the many varieties of daylilies.

Here is a Link to definition of hybridized plant: What is a Hybrid Plant

Coleus from my friends' garden (Mark & Linda Adams)
Overwintering Coleus

If you purchased some of the newer strains of coleus you might want to try bringing some of them indoors for the winter. Coleus is not hardy in our temperature zone (northern New York). They are very easy to over-winter inside. You can cut some side shoots off of your plant now (early September), remove the lower leaves, and bring them inside and put them in a container of water. They will need bright light, but not direct sunlight until they are potted up. Once they root, then you can plant them in a potting mix. Or if you prefer, and have a lot of room to store them, you can dig up the whole plant, pot it up and bring inside. Don't wait too long to bring them in or start cuttings because the first cold weather or light frost could kill your plants. Here is a link for more information on over-wintering your coleus: Info on overwintering your coleus

Here is a link to other plants that are not hardy in the northern climate and how to  store them for the winter (calla lily, caladium, canna, dahlia, Elephant's ear, gladiolus, and tuberous begonia). And at the bottom of this site are links to overwinter your geraniums and fuchsias: Overwintering Tender Perennials 

Peony, Seiboldiana Elegans Hosta, Climbing Hydrangea,
Sundrops, Foxgloves

Purchase Plants that are Labeled for your Temperature Zone

When you are looking for perennials to plant around your home be sure to check the labels on the plants for your hardiness zone. Some plants are sold in local stores that are probably not suited for your/our climate. And at the same time, you might have some micro-climates in your yard that will tolerate some more delicate plants. Also for me, it's trial and error as well. I've tried plants that were zoned for our area such as scabiosa and gaura and have lost them (I'm assuming because of our cold winters) so I just gave up on them after several tries.

To find out your hardiness zone here is an excellent Link to the US Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone:
You can click on each state to get your county and hardiness zone.

This is a link to Northern Gardening Guide to Hardy Perennials: Northern Gardening Plant Guide  The guide gives the lowest zone that a specific plant will tolerate.

Invasive Plants

Swallow-worts  Photo by Ted Link
Black and Pale Swallow Worts

"In New York state, swallow-worts pose a particular threat in alvar(*), where they out-compete a number of rare plant species and disrupt nesting by grassland birds. In general, insect diversity and abundance is significantly lower in dense stands, with cascading effects on the entire food chain." Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, 4/2012 
* Alvar= commonly found near northern Great Lake shores where flat bedrock pavement is exposed.

Both the Black and Pale species of Swallow-wort develop pods that look like milkweed. They are very toxic to the monarch butterfly larvae and to livestock.  If the monarch butterfly lay their eggs on this plant the larvae will die.

Areas of known infestationSwallow-worts have been observed in nearly every county of New York, though a distinct epicenter exists in Jefferson County, where immense stands (100 to 500+ acres) of pale swallow-wort can be found on Grenadier Island and Stony Point in the town of Henderson. The plant is also established in the townships of Adams, Antwerp, Brownville, Cape Vincent, Clayton, Ellisburg, Henderson, Lyme, Orleans, and on Fort Drum.
Swallow-wort has slowly progressed outward from this epicenter. Management efforts are focused on preventing the spread toward Tug Hill and the Adirondacks and are therefore focused on Oswego, Lewis, and Oneida counties.    St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management

Here is a link for the St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species: Black and Pale Swallow Wort

It is recommended that if you come upon swallow-wort that has matured and has ripened seed pods like the milkweed, to stay out of it because you could actually end up spreading the plant to new, uninfected areas if you have the seed on you. If you have this plant on your property and would like to get rid of it you can mow it down when it is young. If the pods have matured, remove the pods before they open and burn them. Continually mowing the area will keep it under control.

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Early morning photo by  Ted Link

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Soil Additives; What's Blooming; Invasive Plants & Insects

My husband's creation! 
Composted Manure and Humus
I like to add this pre-made mixture to my garden soils. This adds a lot of nutrients to the soil, and helps hold moisture as well. There are other soil improvements that you can purchase, but the composted manure and humus combination is readily available. You can add this mixture to your gardens in the fall or spring. Top dress about an 1" or so around your plants and rake it in lightly. It is not recommended that you add more than 2" per year to your soil.

Here is a link to more information on SOILBuilding Healthy Garden Soil

Fresh Sawdust
If you use fresh sawdust as a mulch you need to add additional nitrogen to the soil. Fresh sawdust takes the nitrogen out of the soil as it decomposes and could end up killing your plants. And in addition to that it could take up to 4 years for it to decompose completely. 

Testing Your Soil
Rhododendron growing in our backyard

If some of your plants are struggling it could be that you planted an item that needs an additive such as sphagnum peat which is also an organic matter and would lower alkaline soils or pine needles to raise the pH. Most soil in our area (I am assuming) would be on the acid side, and that is probably because of all the rain and snow we get. Apparently, moisture raises the amount of acid in our soil. (Just found that out after doing some research on the web.) Testing your soil can determine whether or not you need to add any additional amendments, whether your soil is lacking or in excess of nutrients, and if you have metals in your soil. The test determines if your soil is low or high pH. The pH measures how acidic or alkaline your soil is. The range measuring pH is 0-14. With 7 being neutral and lower than 7 would mean high acidic soils. Some plants require high acidic soil: bleeding hearts, creeping phlox, daylilies, most ferns, blueberries, rhododendron, azaleas, astilbe,  hollies and others. Plants requiring alkaline soil: viburnum, weigela, brunnera, dianthus, hellebore, heuchera, and vinca. There are mixed reporting of these perennials because I have a viburnum shasta that does fantastic in our soil. And I have seen roses on both lists as requiring acidic soil/alkaline soil. So if you have these plants and they are doing fine then assume your soil is ok as is. I have to say that we have never had our soil tested, but because of all of our existing pine trees I always assumed it was high acid. Quite a few years ago we planted some small rhododendron bushes and we were putting wood ashes on them. After a few seasons of this the plant almost died and after some research I found out that the wood ashes were raising the pH when in actuality it needed more acid (lower pH). We applied water soluable Miracid for a few years and it took off and now the plant is about 10' tall.

If you are interested in having your soil tested check with your local Cooperative Extension. You can find a link to Cooperative Extension in my side bar on the right. Here is a link to additional information on Why to Test Your Soil? Why Test Your Soil

What's Blooming ?  

Well, first of all the golden rod is in full bloom around here. Not going to post any photos of that stuff.  Also, dahlias, chrysanthemums (mums), Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan), and the fall Autumn Joy sedums are starting to turn pink.

I visited my good friends and neighbors, Linda and Mark Adams, a few days ago and took some photos of their gardens. Linda is a master gardener. These two pictures of dahlias are from their garden. They are just exquisite! 

Double Decker Cone Flower

The Garden House/Play House
Mrs. Robert Byrdon Clematis

More Photos from Linda & Mark Adams' Gardens. 

The Adams' grapes were doing so well this year that Mark had to make an additional trellis (pictured below) in the front of the previous trellis that they had installed a few years ago. It came out really great.

Thanks Mark & Linda for allowing me to photograph some of your beautiful garden features!

Grape Trellis

Garden Maintenance 
You can probably trim back most of your plants that are starting to turn yellow, brown or have crisp edges. I've trimmed my astilbes back and next will probably be the peonies. I feel that the more I trim back now in the fall the less I'll have to do in the spring. Some garden articles recommend that you do not cut back your daylilies because the leaves help protect the crown of the plant from the winter freezes and thaws, but I've never lost any daylilies over the winter from trimming them back.

Perennial plants that should not be trimmed back until spring: Autumn Joy (tall) sedums and mums.

And DON'T prune Tree Peonies at all! and don't split them up!  A few years ago my tree peony was doing great and it had a couple of shoots coming off the sides so I asked my husband to split it up. BIG MISTAKE! The plant only has one major root and luckily the peony came back and finally bloomed again after about a 3 year recovery period.
Here is more information on peonies: Peony Care

Invasive Plants & Insects

Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife   Photo: Ted Link
While this plant appears to be very attractive along the sides of the roads, this plant is threatening the natural food sources for native wetland wildlife by crowding out their natural food sources and protective hiding places. One mature plant can produce over 2 million seeds annually. If you have this plant on your property please keep it cut back or pulled out so it does not produce seeds. Small areas can also be treated with herbicides. (Herbicides: Rodeo near wetlands and Roundup for uplands). Purple loosestrife is found in every state in the US except Florida.

Here is a link for more information: Purple Loosestrife

I will discuss other invasive plants in following issues.

Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer
Peter Chen/Post Standard file photo
The Emerald Ash Borers feed on and eventually kill ALL native ash trees. We can help to slow the spread of this harmful insect by NOT TRANSPORTING ANY FIREWOOD. The ash trees are very common in New York State. The ash tree was widely planted to replace the trees that were lost to the Dutch Elm disease. The adult beetle does little damage to the trees- just eats some leaves. The major damage to the trees results from the larva which feeds on the inner layer of the bark and after that the trees are unable to move nutrients and water from the soil to the rest of the tree.

If you have seen the purple, wedged shaped things hanging from trees in your area and wonder what those are- they are the Emerald Ash Borer Traps. They are used to determine early detection and infestations.

More information on the Emerald Ash Borer: Emerald Ash Borer New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation

Emerald Ash Borer: Regulations and Quarantines: Emerald Ash Borer Regulations & Quarantines

Link to Don't Move Firewood- You Could be Killing Our Trees

Link to Emerald Ash Borer found in Syracuse, NYEmerald Ash Borers found in Syracuse, NY

* HOTLINE: If you think you might have an ash tree infected with the Emerald Ash Borer here is a hotline for you to call: 1-866-640-0652.